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Mark Wetzel, KSL TV

Salt Lake City firefighters warn homeowners of wildfire potential

By Alex Cabrero, KSL TV | Posted - May 15th, 2019 @ 8:21am



SALT LAKE CITY — It sure is pretty seeing all the green in the mountains in Salt Lake City right now.

However, when Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Adam Archuleta looks at it, he sees something else.

“Yes we do. We see potential … and by potential, I mean potential fuel sources for wildland fire spread,” said Archuleta. “All that water has allowed all this vegetation that surrounds us to grow.”

Eventually, all that green is going to dry out and turn brown. When it does, even the smallest spark can send a fire roaring.

“We have minutes to respond. Not hours or days,” Archuleta said.

That’s because hundreds of homes will be in the path of that fire. And that’s why Salt Lake City fire crews are warning homeowners in the City Creek, Capitol Hill and Federal Heights areas to create defensible space now.

Archuleta pointed out one homeowner who did it right. “He has the non-combustible wall, and then he has very low-lying grass for that 25 to 30 feet between his house,” he said.

Of course, he also pointed out other homes he feels could use some work.

“Some of these homes, I mean, you can’t even see the homes through the trees because they’ve allowed the landscaping to go all the way up to their property,” said Archuleta.

Last July, the Columbus Fire on Capitol Hill burned out of control in no time. That forced dozens of homeowners to be evacuated.

Although firefighters saved every house, they also saw how many people didn’t have defensible space or a plan.

“They didn’t know how long they would be gone,” said Archuleta. “They didn’t know what to bring, they didn’t know: Should they leave their pets or should they take it?”

That’s why he’s part of the team warning homeowners now, before the fire season, to be prepared — just in case.

“Instead of making small talk all the time, have a little bit more big talk,” he said. “It’s not just affecting you as a homeowner. Yeah, you have insurance, and maybe you’re willing to take that risk, but when a fire like that gets going, now every immediate neighbor and neighborhood is now exposed because of that as well.”

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